Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Wonderful Tribute to Anthony Newley by Kristopher McDowell

Also see Richard's review of Ambition Facing West and The Merry Widow

Kristopher McDowell brought his tribute to singer/composer Anthony Newley, called The Anthony Newley Project, to the Empire Plush Room for two days on January 22 and 23. McDowell, winner of a Critics Choice Award from Time Out London in 2001, has worked on this project with the help of director Sharon McKnight and musical director David Dobrusky for seven months. Singers Alison Fraser and Andrea Marcovicci also helped with special material and information on the British singer.

Anthony Newley certainly deserves accolades since he was a Renaissance man, songwriter, singer and entertainer. Newley's imposing talents were well known in the 1960s and '70s, especially with his association with Leslie Bricusse in the London and Broadway hits Stop the World - I Want to Get Off and The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd. McDowell presents a fast paced look into the amazing life of the British performer, singing nineteen of his well known and lessor known songs. The artist also gives the audience some wonderful gems about Newley's hectic life. McDowell has an amazing musical dexterity in presenting the songs, since he not only has a knock-out voice but gives a dramatic reading to each selection. He breaks the fourth wall and has great repartee with the audience.

McDowell opens the show with "The Joker" from The Roar of the Greasepaint, sung in the special style of the British singer, and a rendition of "Pure Imagination" segues into "Candy Man," from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He sings all of the well known songs, including "Gonna Build a Mountain", "Who Can I Turn To," "Once in a Lifetime," "Lumbered," and Newley's signature song "What Kind of Fool Am I?."

McDowell also sings little known songs that are associated with Newley, such as a vaudeville style "The Good Old Bad Old Days" from a musical of the same name that flopped. Another song from that musical, "I Do Not Love You," is marvelously sung. The cabaret artist gives many insights into this unusual singer of songs. Newley was a famous, womanizing, ego-driven person who was married three times. McDowell talks about Newley's famous "opposites attract" marriage to Joan Collins. One important fact he brings up is that Newley could not work without a partner. Projects he worked on alone seemed to fail, such as the aforementioned Good Old Bad Old Days, Chaplin: the Musical and the little known film musical with the cumbersome title Can Hieronymus Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?. One of the songs from that film, "When You Gotta Go," is the last song of the 65 minute session.

Kristopher McDowell gives patrons a lively evening of song and facts about one of Britain's greatest exports. The artist will be taking this show around the country throughout the year and will eventually try to enlarge The Anthony Newley Project to a possible 90-minute production.

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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